By Adam Z. Lein | March 7, 2011 10:32 AM
The Galaxy S phones boast a speedy processor, a large Super AMOLED screen, and a lot of tweaks made to Android to make the device more unique. The Galaxy S 4G is essentially a refresh of T-Mobile’s previous Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant that was also available on T-Mobile. The new Galaxy S 4G makes a number of welcome changes while keeping the same great screen and thin form factor. Is this update now the best Android phone out there? Read on for our full review of the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S 4G!
Here’s the unboxing for the Samsung Galaxy S 4G. The device includes the normal AC adapter, USB cable, headphones, but it also includes a 16Gb Micro SD card preinstalled and preloaded with the “Inception” movie.
Like other Samsung Galaxy S devices, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G is running with a Samsung Hummingbird CPU running at 1GHz (see more on the Hummingbird) on top of Android 2.2. The capacitive display uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology and is 4.0″ and 800×480 WVGA resolution. In terms of wireless radios, the Galaxy S 4G includes: WiFi (with N), UMTS with HSPA+ on T-Mobile’s network, Bluetooth 3.0, and GPS (assisted). For imaging, the rear camera (which has no flash) takes stills at 5 megapixels and video at 720p HD. For audio there is a 3.5mm jack, and for syncing and charging, we have microUSB. The battery is 1650 mAh. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.
On the left side of the device we have the volume rocker and lanyard hole.
On the right side of the device we have the power/standby button. If you’re coming from the iPhone or an HTC device, this side placement will take some getting used to. Most other smartphones have the power/standby button on the top, and sometimes bottom, but the side placement is much nicer since it’s very easy to reach with your index finger while holding the phone with your left hand.
On the top we have the 3.5mm headphone jack. To the right of the 3.5mm jack is a microUSB port hidden next to a very sturdy sliding door.
On the bottom is the microphone hole along with a little slit for prying the back battery cover off.
On the back you see some Galaxy S branding on the new grey and black duotone battery cover. The speaker vent is above that, while the 5MP camera lens is towards the top of the device.
Underneath the battery cover is the 1650 mAh battery, a removable 16GB microSD card, and the SIM card slot.
Here you see a size comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S 4G on top, the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant, the Nokia N8, and the HTC HD7 on the bottom.
Again, here’s a size comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S 4G on the left, then the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant, the Nokia N8 and the HTC HD7 on the right.
This video goes over all of the added customizations and software bundles that T-Mobile has added to the Galaxy S 4G. There are a lot of add-ons from T-Mobile and Samsung including T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling feature, account status, device help, visual voicemail, T-Mobile TV and a full copy of the movie “Inception”. The Inception icon on the home screen doesn’t take you directly to the Inception movie like the previous version’s “Avatar” icon did. Instead it takes you to the Media Hub where you have to sign up for an account. However, you can still see the Inception movie if you open the Video Player instead. A GoGo Inflight Wi-Fi icon is also included, but it just goes to a web page that says the offer is no longer available.
Still the Samsung Galaxy S 4G comes with a lot of other freeware that you have to set up accounts for. The Kindle app, Slacker, Amazon MP3 and Facebook are all included. You also get DoubleTwists AirSync which you can use for wireless media syncing over a Wi-Fi network. ThinkFree Office is there to handle your Office document opening needs, though that needs to be activated with the ThinkFree Office online service.
Another change from the previous Samsung Vibrant is the lock screen in the Galaxy S 4G. It’s not as easy to unlock anymore. You used to be able to just flick it in the Vibrant, but now you have to swipe it edge to edge either horizontally or vertically in order to unlock the screen. It’s pretty annoying at first and will take some getting used to.
Qik is also included for video chat and video sharing. You can record videos to the Qik video sharing service, email videos, and make video calls to other people who have the same Qik app installed. Unfortunately this is not using any kind of standard method of making video calls, so the people you want to call will have to have a compatible app.
The Galaxy S 4G also includes a much more extensive task management program than what is usually included in other Android phones. You can see all active applications in a list and end them individually or all at once. It also shows you how much RAM and CPU usage each app is using. You can easily uninstall apps from there, clear out the RAM, and monitor storage use.
You might also want to install the Samsung Kies desktop software that works with the Galaxy S smartphones. It includes some unique features that might be very useful. For example, it can print or archive your text messages from your phone, set up internet connection tethering, convert videos to an appropriate format for your phone, and sync Calendar/Contacts with Outlook.
For still photography, the Galaxy S 4G can take photos at 5 megapixels. Above is an outdoor shot and that turned out quite nice. The camera seems to be a minor improvement over the version in the Samsung Vibrant. The photos are still a little grainy, but there’s no over sharpening and the exposure is very good.
One problem with the camera on the Galaxy S 4G is that it lacks a flash, so low light images come out very grainy and noisy. You’ll also notice there’s a large amount of lag between taking a photo, seeing a photo, and being able to take another photo.
In terms of processor speed, everything is about the same as the old Samsung Vibrant, except the Galaxy S 4G is much more stable. Media scanning doesn’t take nearly as long as the Vibrant, and doesn’t bog the whole system down. If you’re wondering about its Quadrant Standard benchmark score, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G gets a midrange 922. Of course, the Galaxy S 4G also includes an upgraded radio for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G speeds.
Once you find a location that supports T-Mobile’s 4G speeds, you’ll notice quite an increase in data download capabilities.
The Galaxy S 4G’s battery life seems a bit less than average. With some significant video, photo, and email usage the battery should be gone within a half a day. With light use, push Exchange, Gmail, and IMAP email checking every 1 hour, the battery should last a whole day. However, you should be sure to use the task manager to end your background tasks since those tend to kill your battery a lot faster if left running.
BUGS AND WISHES
The Galaxy S 4G is much more stable than the previous Samsung Vibrant, however it still has plenty of bugs. The most annoying for me is that the email app tends to pop-up every 5 minutes or so with force close errors. It will get in the way of other things you’re doing and obviously doesn’t help if you want to read some email. Though your mileage may vary, and it’s very possible that these errors will not happen for others. I’ve also noticed a lot of repeat copies of email messages in the email program under my Exchange account.
The Android Marketplace can be unresponsive at times as well and for some reason the haptic feedback feels a little delayed.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
You can buy the Galaxy S 4G from T-Mobile for $199 with a two year contract.
+ Super AMOLED display is gorgeous and is usable outdoors
+ Thin and light
+ Includes “Inception” movie & 16Gb Micro SD
+ Qik 2 way video calling, and front-facing camera
+ HSPA+ T-Mobile 4G broadband
+ Task manager makes it easy to close programs
- No flash on the camera
- Buggy software often shows “Force quit” dialogs
- Capacitive buttons seem to have a delayed response
- Lots of included bloatware and separate accounts to create for each included app.
- If you leave certain apps running the battery goes down very quickly
The Samsung Galaxy S 4G worked really well for the first week or so. I was impressed with how stable and improved it was compared to the previous Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant. Unfortunately, after I installed literally two apps (Google Maps’ update and Speedtest.net), force quit error dialogs started appearing very frequently. Uninstalling the apps didn’t seem to help, so it will likely need a hard reset instead.
If you’re looking for the newest Android 2.2 smartphone with very fast HSPA+ network support, Wi-Fi internet sharing, a gorgeous Super AMOLED screen, Qik video calling, WiFi calling for those bad-reception areas, and you enjoy finding and fixing bugs on your own then the Samsung Galaxy S 4G is a good choice.
I give the Samsung Vibrant a 3.5/5.